Thursday, July 18

Israel-Hamas War: U.N. Officials Warn of ‘Dire’ Situation at Overcrowded Egypt-Gaza Border

A thousand miles from Gaza, the lobby of a luxury hotel in Doha, the capital of Qatar, was a comfortable place to be a Palestinian official on Sunday.

People gathered around Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to Britain, to shake hands, take pictures and thank him for speaking out for the Palestinians throughout the war in Gaza.

Mr. Zomlot was attending the Doha Forum, an international conference that Qatar hosts each year to gather officials, academics and journalists from around the Middle East and beyond to discuss hot topics in the region.

While this year’s edition, under the banner “Diplomacy, Dialogue and Diversity,” included sessions on green energy and artificial intelligence, much of the conversation in the official meetings and around the coffee bars gravitated to the war in Gaza, with a strongly pro-Palestinian perspective.

In the opening session, attended by Qatar’s monarch, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, warned of the “risk of collapse of the humanitarian system” in Gaza and renewed his call for a cease-fire. The prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mohammad Shtayyeh, said that the United States should be held responsible for deadly Israeli attacks on Gaza, which Gazan health officials say have killed more than 17,000 people.

At a session about the future of Palestinian political leadership, panelists spoke of Palestinian resistance against Israel as an “anticolonial project,” accused Israel of committing “genocide” in Gaza and referred to Israeli “apartheid” in the occupied West Bank — views that were shared by many of the events’ attendees, but would likely not get much airtime at similar events in the United States or Europe, where support for Israel remains strong.

In an interview, Mr. Zomlot said that the intensity of the war in Gaza had made the Palestinian issue more central to this year’s event. That was, he said, “because of the intensity and because of the feeling that there is a global failure to enforce some sort of stability, to bring everybody to some sanity, to bring grown-ups into the room.”

Now, he said, “There are no grown-ups and there is no room, so the region feels almost left alone.”

The event’s guest list, which included officials from around the Middle East and elsewhere, reflects both tiny Qatar’s ambitions to be a global player and its efforts to maintain good relations with a wide range of countries and political movements, including those that are at war with each other.

Qatar mediated talks between Israel and Hamas that resulted in a week’s worth of cease-fires and the exchange of 105 hostages held by Hamas for 240 Palestinians from Israeli jails before the truce collapsed on Dec. 1.

Although Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and other countries, maintains an office in Qatar, officials from the movement were not evident at the conference. The only Israeli citizen on the official speakers’ list was Sami Abu Shehadeh, a Palestinian and former member of the Israeli Parliament.

Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, addressed the event virtually, defending Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and accusing the United States and its allies of hypocrisy about human rights.

“Is there a single place where the United States intervened with military force where life has become better?” he asked. “I think you know the answer.”

Many of the speakers at the conference blasted the United States for its military support for Israel and for using its veto on the U.N. Security Council to block a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza on Friday.

A number of Biden administration officials attended the event, but generally kept a low profile. Only one was scheduled to speak, at a session about Yemen that was by invitation only.

But on Sunday afternoon, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, took the stage and spoke out in support of Israel.

He criticized the speakers in the event’s opening session for not talking more about the violence committed by Palestinian militants during the Hamas-led surprise attack on Israel, which Israeli authorities say killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

He said that a bright future for the Palestinians would require a new Palestinian Authority, accusing its current leaders of corruption. “I wouldn’t give 15 cents to this crowd,” he said. The authority administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and U.S. officials have said it should have a role in Gaza if and when Hamas is defeated.

Mr. Graham voiced unwavering support for Israel from U.S. lawmakers.

“Congress will stand with Israel until they do what they need to do,” he said.